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CSOs call on govt's, brands & suppliers to urgently mitigate health & economic impacts on 60 million garment workers bearing brunt of COVID-19 crisis

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, millions of garment workers in fashion supply chains have borne the brunt of the impacts of the crisis. Garment factories in producing countries have reduced or ceased altogether operations as a result of raw materials shortages from China, and major brands and retailers postponing or cancelling orders as clothing stores in developed market economies have been shut by lockdowns. As a result, millions of factory workers have been laid off or temporarily suspended, often without legally-mandated pay or severance. In some countries where factories remain in operation, workers are forced to continue work in factories where employers are unwilling to ensure adequate precautions, leaving workers, their families and communities at risk of infection.

Statements made by civil society organisations and trade unions, calling on brands, governments and suppliers to urgently mitigate the health and economic impacts of the crisis on garment workers, can be found below.

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20 July 2020

Asia: Labour groups demand global brands make Supply-chain Relief Contribution to all garment workers during COVID-19 crisis, incl. subcontracted & home-workers

Author: Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) & HomeNet South East Asia (HNSEA)

"Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) and HomeNet South East Asia (HNSEA) Demand a COVID-19 Supply-Chain Relief Contribution from Brands for All Garment Workers", July 2020

... [We] jointly demand that global brands in the fashion industry make a Supply-chain Relief Contribution (SRC) to all garment workers in their supply chains during the COVID-19 crisis. Workers include time-rated, piece-rated, subcontracted and home workers...

A Supply-chain Relief Contribution (SRC) should be a quantified amount: an additional 2% of total sourcing by the particular brand in the preceding 12 months from the respective factory. This SRC supplements any shortfall in the estimated 60 days of wages lost from the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis until 30 June 2020... based on the total labour cost of garment production...

AFWA believes that brands are responsible for ensuring that all workers throughout their supply chains (including time-rated, piece-rated, subcontracted and home workers) enjoy labour rights and are paid a living wage... premised on the well documented fact that brands’ purchasing practices determine the wages throughout the supply chain...

AFWA, WIEGO, HNSA and HNSEA believe that any agreement with a brand and/or retailers must be binding...

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Article
1 June 2020

Labour groups call on brands to ensure garment workers will be paid wages & benefits during COVID-19

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

"Garment workers need apparel companies' assurance that they will be paid during this crisis", 1 June 2020

By cancelling orders, delaying placement... or forcing discounts on goods already produced, apparel companies have created a situation where factories are unable to pay workers on time or at all. After recent public outcry, a number of companies have committed to paying all orders placed before the pandemic hit. But that is not enough.  

Today, labour rights organisations and unions are urging apparel companies to publicly assure that all apparel... workers in their supply chain who were employed at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis will receive their legally mandated or regular wages and benefits, including back pay or severance pay if applicable. Furthermore, these organisations urge companies to assure payment of a price premium on future orders into a guarantee fund reserved to support stronger social protections for workers. 

Companies have a responsibility to prevent, mitigate, and remedy the human rights violations in their supply chains. By ensuring that workers receive their due wages, companies fulfil part of their due diligence obligations, which also include ensuring non-discriminatory treatment of workers, social protection, and safe working conditions that do not expose workers to infection or other health risks.

... [T]he Clean Clothes Campaign network will start reaching out to apparel companies with these demands directly as well as through an upcoming campaign...

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Article
18 May 2020

Central America: Unions call on govt.s & brands to provide humanitarian support for 80,000 garment workers during COVID-19

Author: Ivan Castano Freedman, just-style

“Unions seek support for 80,000 Central America garment workers”, 15 May 2020

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Nearly 50,000 in El Salvador, 26,000 in Honduras and 6,000 in Nicaragua: that’s how many workers Central American garment factories are laying off with no paycheck, trade union officials say. They are stepping up calls for governments and fashion brands to help compensate and provide a livelihood for impoverished sewers until the pandemic recedes…

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Article
6 May 2020

Labour groups demand garment brands provide humanitarian relief to workers in crisis alongside their existing supply chain obligations

Author: Global Labor Justice

"All eyes on fast fashion: New rules for a new era of supply chains"

..All Eyes on Fast Fashion — New Rules for a New Era of Supply Chains is Global Labor Justice’s web-based tool to redefine the rules for global supply chains to create living wage jobs and transform how corporate accountability is defined and enforced in the global garment supply chain.  As workers, suppliers, and brands work together to rebuild supply chain capacity in the fast fashion sector, we must create a new era of supply chains where brands and their investors are held accountable for responsible business practices that fundamentally shift the imbalance of power and massive inequalities that have long plagued the global fashion industry. 

All Eyes on Fast Fashion kicks off with a demand to fifteen major fast fashion brands for a Supply Chain Relief Contribution equal to sixty days of income paid to workers through the suppliers who directly employ them. GLJ has written to ask fifteen major fast fashion brands to pay 2% of their annual sourcing towards immediate relief for supply chain workers, developed by our partner, the Asia Floor Wage AllianceThe SRC is a relief contribution and in no way substitutes brands’ existing and ongoing supply chain obligations to pay for orders given and produced, to not cancel orders, to not seek discounts in an already under-costed supply chain, and to act accountability in relation to any future cases of downsizing, retrenchment and closure...

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4 May 2020

Labour Day: Cambodian unions call on apparel brands to commit to pay for all placed, in-production & completed orders

Author: Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions

Cambodian trade unions May Day demands

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29 April 2020

Labour groups produce guidelines for the safe operation of garment factories during COVID-19 pandemic

Author: Worker Rights Consortium & Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network

"Effective Infection Control Practices and Policies for Operating Apparel and Textile Factories", April 2020

The following guidelines relate to the safe operation of apparel and textile factories during the Covid-19 pandemic... The guidelines have two sections: one for facilities outside the United States and the other for facilities within the United States. Each section consists of immediate work practices needed to protect workers from infection on site and the new and revised workplace policies necessary to implement the infection control measures in an effective and sustainable manner...

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28 April 2020

Website brings together fundraising & advocacy campaigns supporting garment workers through COVID-19 pandemic

Author: GarmentWorkersCovidRelief.org

"SUPPORT GARMENT WORKERS IMPACTED BY THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC", April 2020

... The livelihoods of millions of garment workers around the world have been threatened by the economic and social fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Global brands have cancelled orders, abandoning factory workers in a time of dire need. Other workers are manufacturing face masks and PPE in unsafe conditions. This website aims to bring together the numerous fundraising and advocacy campaigns in process by the Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, the Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles, Asia Floor Wage Alliance, ReMake, and more under one roof, so that the wider public can understand the issues and help garment workers through this crisis...

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20 April 2020

Asia: Garment worker unions call on brands to pay garment workers' relief contribution in response to COVID-19 humanitarian crisis

Author: Asia Floor Wage Alliance

"Brands' Responsibility in COVID-19 Humanitarian Crisis: Contribute to Garment Workers' Relief", April 2020

Garment workers in Asia... who in the best of circumstances, survive under high-risk, poverty-level working and living conditions are least equipped to bear the brunt of [the COVID-19 crisis]...

[W]e propose that brands make a one-time Supply-chain Relief Contribution for each worker in their supplier factories, as a requirement of responsible business practices. Based on the existing data on labour cost, we propose brands calculate their Supply-chain Relief Contribution as an additional 2% of the total sourcing by the brand from the preceding 12 months at the respective factory. The SRC should be structured as a pass through from the brands to the suppliers, payable directly to the workers. If brands honour this Contribution for their supplier factories, each worker would get a modest but important Contribution to help them mitigate the most extreme effects of the... crisis...

The SRC is a relief contribution and in no way substitutes brands’ existing and ongoing supply chain obligations to pay for orders given and produced, to not cancel orders, to not seek discounts in an already under-costed supply chain, and so on. It also does not substitute for obligations to pay severance contributions...

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Article
14 April 2020

Clean Clothes Campaign outlines demands on brands & govts. to mitigate effects of COVID-19 crisis on global garment supply chains

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

"COVID-19 Short Term Demands in defense of Garment Workers in Global Supply Chains", 9 April 2020

...Payment of wages All apparel, textile, footwear, and logistics workers... employed at the onset of the crisis... should be paid... legally mandated wages and benefits, including severance payments and arrears. Emergency relief funds and financial support packages... should be set up with contributions from IFIs, donor governments as well as brands and retailers...

Worker health and safety and public health ... [F]irms... who... resume production... must comply with World Health Organization guidance and... follow other... guidance... to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19 at workplaces... Garment workers... should be provided with additional labour protection including childcare facilities or allowances, medical insurance, and hazard pay...

Right to refuse work Workers who stop working given COVID-19 risks must not be excluded from unemployment, severance, or... benefits during the crisis or be penalized with loss of contracts or work when the crisis subsides...

Social protection floors Governments in garment producer countries need to... establish and maintain social protection floors and improve national social security schemes... [and] work with manufacturers to establish transparent cost-sharing...

Return and recovery post-pandemic ... [B]rands and retailers should ensure that suppliers pay workers living wages and social benefits... [and] will need to rethink and change the current pricing model and underlying business model. These changes include order stability... timely payments of orders, and full respect for workers' rights... Responsible exit plans of brands... should be considered temporary and include discussion of return to suppliers once the crisis subsides... Governments that house the headquarters of lead firms should implement effective regulatory reform... regulating unfair commercial and trade practices that lead to human rights abuses in their global supply chains...

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8 April 2020

USA: 30 CSOs call on brands & garment manufacturers to implement essential worker health protection & workers’ rights measures during COVID-19 crisis, in joint letter

Author: Garment Worker Center, International Labor Rights Forum & others

"Covid-19 Related Worker Protections Needed for Garment/PPE Production in US", 3 April 2020

In a joint letter together with 28 other organizations, the International Labor Rights Forum and the Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles... shared recommendations on worker health protection and workers’ rights measures for brands/manufacturers producing or sourcing apparel, textiles, and/or PPE from factories in the United States. The letter was shared with dozens of garment manufacturers and fashion brands...

The recommendations include the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease... and additional standards such as:

  • paid breaks for hand-washing
  • paid training on all Covid-related safeguards
  • paid sick leave for the duration of Covid-19 related illness, and at least 14 days of paid leave going forward
  • unemployment benefits or other forms of income replacement that include workers irrespective of immigration or independent contractor status, or their employer's failure to register them as employees.

... [It] also calls on companies that are reducing orders from factories, or that have been required to close operations... to pay in full on orders for which material has been purchased or production has already begun; to ensure unemployment benefits reach all their workers affected by job loss; and to ensure that when factories reopen that first-hire priority is given to laid-off workers to their previous posts and deadlines for orders are reassessed to prevent workers from working mandatory overtime.

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Download the full document here